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«Abstract We conducted an industrial case study of a distributed team in the USA and the Czech Republic that used Extreme Programming. Our goal was to ...»

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This paper represents a case study of a GSD XP team and the challenges faced by the project management team in the USA and the development team in the Czech Republic. The XP development methodology requires informal communication between customer and developer. Despite geographic, technical, temporal and linguistic hurdles, the team was able to create an environment rich with the informal communication that is essential to XP. Dialogues between customers and developers over feature details became common, changes in user story specifications were made throughout the project, and technical questions were resolved quickly and efficiently. Thus, many of the hallmarks of the face-to-face communication advocated in XP were adequately approximated through the team’s use of three essential communication practices: an email listserv, globally-available project management tool, and an intermediary development manager who played a strong role in both groups.

Through a systematic analysis of our findings, we suggest four success factors for globally-distributed XP projects working in a new problem domain. These include the invaluable role played by the development manager, who acted as a communication bridgehead between the two groups and played the advocate of both groups on a daily basis. We also note the importance of short, asynchronous communication loops that can serve as a sufficient surrogate for synchronous communication. An identifiable customer authority is necessary to manage and resolve requirements-related issues, and high process visibility was important for the customers to guide the project effectively while the developers were working on a new and unfamiliar problem. While some of these conjectures refer to practices that could be beneficial to any software development team, our results indicate these practices are essential for distributed teams employing a communication-rich methodology.

Our findings are a first step toward a more formal investigation into using communication-centric methodologies such as XP in GSD. We hope that others will build upon this research the possible replication of this case study by investigations of development organizations with similar characteristics. Our observations are encouraging, and we believe that, despite barriers of time, language, and distance, the use of informal communication-centric practices can be leveraged to produce successful projects.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Chet Fennell, Jack Gibson, Mike Kelly, Richard Laurent, and James Young of Tekelec and Ludek Smid of Radiante Corporation for their invaluable comments and for supporting this paper. The North Carolina Center for Computing and Communication (CACC Core Grant 04-06) partially funded this research.

We also acknowledge the feedback provided by the NCSU software engineering reading group.

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Appendix

0) What is your role within the organization?

Project-specific questions

When prompted, the scale for the questions below is:

1. Very Dissatisfied 2. Dissatisfied 3. Neutral 4. Satisfied 5. Very Satisfied

1) What product do you use?

2) What version of this product do you use?

3) On a scale from 1-5, how satisfied are you with the reliability of this product?

4) What are the effects of any reliability problems in this product? Please comment.

5) On a scale from 1-5, how satisfied are you with the product’s capabilities? That is, does it meet your needs in terms of features and functionality?

6) In what ways do the product’s capabilities fail to meet your expectations? Please comment.

7) On a scale from 1-5, how satisfied are you with communication with the development organization? Rate this on the basis of communicating with and receiving feedback from the development team or marketing representative.

Do not base this comparison on communications with customer support or other avenues.

8) Please describe who you interact with at the development organizations, e.g. a marketing representative, project manager, developers themselves. If you interact with more than one contact, please indicate which is the primary contact.

9) On a scale from 1-5, what is your overall satisfaction with the product?



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